Civility

I first moved to Washington Heights (AKA “Upstate Manhattan”) in 1996. I have been using the same subway entrance/exit since then.  Why do I care about your subway stop, you ask?  Well, because it’s changed.

We have three elevators, as this is one of the deepest stations, and when I moved north, at least two would be manned daily. The operators took pride in their elevators, it seemed to me,  as they were clean and smelled good, and one operator in particular went all-out on seasonal decorations and music.  When using the elevators, almost everyone greeted the operators on boarding and thanked them on leaving.   People smiled at them and at each other.

Then the MTA (or so we were told) got complaints about the decorations and the music, and they disappeared. We went to one manned elevator, with no back-up if the operator needed to step away.  The elevators got dirtier and smellier and people didn’t smile at the operator or each other.  I’m often the lone voice saying “hello” on entering and “thank you” on exiting.  And I’m not really very nice.

More recently, a post showed up on Facebook about someone asking for help. The details aren’t actually important, as those who thought asking for help/expecting it was inappropriate were not swayed by any information or real-life examples offered.

As I said, I’m not basically a pleasant person. My natural expression is the epitome of resting bitch face, especially since the corners of my mouth turn down unless I am actively smiling.  Add to that that I can be pretty adamant about right and wrong, at least in public behavior, and the current loss of civility I see around me is setting me up for disaster.

What happened to “excuse me” when you bump into someone? Do we not recall that stairs are made for both up and down, and sidewalks are for walking – in both directions – and that as in driving (at least in the United States), it is courteous to stay to the right?  If you see someone approaching a door you are entering or exiting, should you not hold it for them?  Why do we stare down at our laps to ensure we don’t see that pregnant/lame/overburdened person enter the subway, in case we might be tempted  to offer a seat?

I am not per71176_321645363993_49793_nfect on any of these, or many others, by any stretch. And it’s easy to say the negativity surrounding last year’s election has emboldened people’s worst natures.  But honestly, I started seeing this “decline” as far back as I can remember, and it makes me sad.

 

So, just to be sure I hit all the high points:

Hello.

Good morning/afternoon/evening.

Please.

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Have a lovely day.

Peace.

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Never Enough

I struggle with money.  It’s not that I don’t get paid appropriately – though if we’re honest, no-one ever makes enough money – or that I spend outrageously.  Those of you who know my shoe addiction might snicker at that, but you would be surprised at how far money can go on such things if you do it well.  And shoes (and clothes) do wear out.

But hey, life is expensive.  Especially here in Manhattan.  I own my home – or more accurately, it owns me.  While my mortgage is totally manageable, my co-op had a major financial disaster soon after I moved in, and our maintenance costs have never really recovered.  (If you are wondering, our retaining wall collapsed on the Henry Hudson Parkway.  Thank God, it was only property damage.)  Plus, we have the worst. board. ever.  And don’t say I should run for the board – I don’t need to be paying a criminal defense attorney to clear assault charges on top of everything else.

Luckily, I bought a lifetime membership to my Bikram Yoga studio a few years ago, so that is no longer an ongoing expense.  The cats are pretty healthy, and since they stay indoors and don’t meet other animals, all the expensive vaccinations do not have to be done every year.  (If you didn’t know that, now you do!)  Despite the best efforts of the MTA, my commute remains practical, so I don’t have to worry about a car, parking, and so on.  I often get to go really cool places for work, so by staying a few days on my own, I have great travel experiences.

Still, there’s always something.  Most recently, a lot of unexpected medical costs.  stock-photo-beautiful-young-woman-throwing-mony-into-air-on-white-41084530And while I have amazing benefits, dental is a problem, because no affordable dental plan really pays what you need when you have that emergency root canal.  I’ve named the new crown “Vacation 2013”.  I do everything possible to be ready for such emergencies, but really, it feels like a swift kick to the stomach every time in happens, and I sit down to pay bills, already carefully scheduled to match up with my weekly paycheck, and I see that one more cost.

Whenever money is tight, I actually really freak out.  I did not grow up with a lot of money, though in so many more important ways, I was very privileged.  And I was fortunate to get scholarships, loans, and jobs, as well as family support, starting in elementary school, that allowed me to go to the schools of my choice.  The one thing I did not learn, apparently, was how to control my money panic.  So I try to pretend it’s not a problem, because mostly it isn’t.

If only my teeth would stop acting up!

My Doorman

I’m pretty sure my doorman (the day guy, at least) does not approve of me.  Perhaps I shouldn’t care, as (luckily) he’s not the gossipy doorman.  That would be the night guy.  Unlike Carlton (remember him?),  I don’t just hear my doorman over an intercom, I pass him every time I enter and exit the building.   Well, yes, I keep odd hours.  Yes, I have visitors of both genders.  And yes, I think both of those things are within my rights.  I don’t know how “boring” everyone else must be for L. (my doorman) to give me such a disdainful look when I stop by to tell him I’ll be having company, please give them my keys as I’m going out for a while.  Or the even more disdainful look when I am walking into the building just as he arrives for work.  After all, for all he knows I was out for an early-morning walk!  And in fact, if I run out on the weekend to an early yoga class, I’ll be coming home not long after he starts work… and boy, do I get “the look” then!

It’s just one of the facts of living in a big city.  People who don’t live in big cities, especially if they don’t live in apartments, think living in a big city is anonymous.  They’re wrong.   I’m pretty sure my doormen (and probably, my neighbors) know more about me than I’m actually comfortable with.  (And yes, I know, I know, I shouldn’t end my sentence with “with”.  Get over it.)   I have surrendered any expectation of privacy by living in a doorman building in the first place – it’s my trade-off for the convenience, and yes, feeling of security I get because there is someone out there most hours of the day (and night).  And when the doorman isn’t there, the security guard is.  It’s a good feeling for a woman living alone in Manhattan.

So I put up with the (not so) hidden disapproval, and the frequent disdainful looks, and in a way,  I like it.  I take it as an affirmation that I live an interesting life!

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On Superstition

Hmmm....

Ir’s Friday the 13th, and I am flying today.  This is not the first time this has happened, but I always get an extra twinge of anxiety when I travel on this day.

I pick up pennies for luck, by the way, but only if they’re heads up.  I throw spilled salt over my shoulder (right hand, left shoulder), and even when I owned a black cat, I worried if he crossed my path.

I will note that the day after I pick up those pennies, I drop them, heads up, to share the luck.  That I don’t really think that spilled salt is bad luck, but the action of reacting to it amuses me.  That even if Edgar (the aforementioned black cat and the best cat ever) crossed my path, I went about my business.

So I don’t suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia, but I can’t help being apprehensive about being on a plane, which scares me in any case, on Friday the 13th.

But hey, we’re heading into a three-day weekend that I want to spend home in Upstate Manhattan.   I miss my cats and my yoga studio; I need to hit a Weight Watchers meeting; and I have two parties to go to.

So, Friday the 13th – you can suck it.  I’m flyin’!

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No, What I Am Is Lucky

Yesterday, someone told me I looked tired, and I stewed about it the rest of the day.  In my opinion, that’s one of those things you never say to a woman, just like you don’t ask a woman when she’s due unless you see a baby emerging from her at that exact moment.

Yes, maybe I am tired.  But I have two things to say to that – 1) it’s none of your business, and 2) what I really am is lucky.

I have a career, not just a job.  I get to do work that is relevant, important, challenging and creative, and get paid (salary and benefits) to do so.  I also happen to think I excel at this work, which makes me enjoy it that much more.

I have a crazy, loving, supportive family, especially my two sisters.  Sure, we fight sometimes, but that’s part of what makes us family.

I have an even crazier, but just as loving and supportive, circle of friends, near and far, new and old.

My cats adore me.  In fact, all our family pets adore me.

I have my Bikram yoga practice, which has brought more peace and joy to my life than I thought possible.

Wells Fargo and I own a fantastic co-op in Upstate Manhattan.

I am living my life exactly as I choose.

So if I’m tired, it’s a good thing.  I can’t be Wonder Woman every minute of every day, and frankly, I’m not trying.

(photoshop credit to Frank)

Wine, Cheese, Nuts, And New Beginnings

I live in New York.  Upstate Manhattan, actually.  Since before it was cool and they began writing musicals about my nabe… And I travel a lot, both for work and for fun.  When I travel, I always take slippers.  One of my sisters recently laughed at this habit, even though she also travels…a lot.  Well, you’ve stayed in hotels.  You know that while you see those vacuums in the hall, you never see the hall being vacuumed.  It’s the same theory that reminds you to take off that old quilted bedcover before climbing into your hotel bed.

Traveling as much as I do is both a joy and a chore.  Obviously, there’s the packing thing, which I do in two ways.  The first is a lengthy process, involving taking many outfits out, trying them all on, and planning each ensemble.  The second is “day of” panic packing, which is becoming the trend as I travel even more.  The panic packing seems to suit the person I am right now, while the planned packing was mostly a reflection of my (continued) fear of flying.  After the packing thing, there is the pet care thing, the leaving a clean apartment thing, and worst of all… the airport thing.

Each trip becomes a time capsule of its particular experience.  I’m not even sure what that means, or why it happens, just that it does.

I have been in the process of re-inventing myself for the last 12 months or so. I feel like for the first time, I am allowing myself to be the person I was always meant to be.  I’m being much more social in my own particularly odd way (this will be detailed in future entries about the life of a single-by-choice woman); claiming my place at work; asserting myself with my family; and through it all, wearing slippers.  As I change, the one constant has been those slippers.  The travel pair, and of course, the stay-at-home pair.  They are a touchstone of normality in a life that, despite my best efforts, sometimes seems to spiral out of control.  When I’m feeling a little too on edge, I can curl up with a book, the computer, the iPad, even just my iPhone, wearing my slippers, and find a calmness that otherwise I only find in savasana.  (Yes, I’m also an avid Bikram yogini – the other constant in my work and travel lives.)

So tonight, as I shared wine, cheese and mixed nuts with a dear friend, and after some weeks  of having my life dissected with disapproval, I decided to tell my story.  I have yet to find the book, blog, or column that acknowledges the existence of a woman like me (and Candace Bushnell, you got it wrong), so please join me as I pontificate, ramble, whine, celebrate, and of course, travel with slippers.

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